Next Big Thing – haptic stabs

Video gaming moves might be about to get real, physical consequences – enough to make you more careful

Wait, I don’t want no stabbing. It’ll hurt.

That it might. But in the virtual world, you have it too easy at the moment. You just play your games, waltzing your character into lethal combat, smacking your car into lamp posts or hitting the afterburners with no thought for the G-forces that would ordinarily turn your insides into Angel Delight. What if your actions had real, physical consequences – not serious ones, but enough to make you a little more careful?

Yeah, but stabbing? Is that a fun thing?

Researchers at Tokyo’s University of Electro-Communications have discovered that by using vibrating devices on either side of your hand, they can simulate the sensation of something passing through your palm and out the other side. Thankfully, the key word here is ‘sensation’, rather than ‘pain’, which why it’s called the University of Electro-Communications and not the Castle of Mind-Mangling Electrical Torture.

Oh, all right – you can stab me. But why? 

This is an early step towards super-realistic gaming, in which touch will add as much to the experience as sight and sound. But aside from enhancing your fragfests, anything that lets you interact with virtual objects in a more natural, real-world way could be used in all walks of life, adding an extra dimension to everything from your Kinect to an ATM. Regular touch contact will soon seem like old hat.

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